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Solent Occupational Safety Association


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See also Dust, Explosions and Explosives, Pesticides, COSHH Assessments

All materials that we encounter in daily life are chemicals, whether they are essential (like vitamins, proteins, oxygen), useful (plastics, washing powder), enhancing (perfumes, beverages), harmful (bleach, alcohol), or downright toxic (strychnine, carbon monoxide).  In the workplace, any material that has the potential to harm the user must be assessed to identify how it will harm the user, whether safer substitutes could be used, or whether the process etc could be changed to reduce the person’s exposure.  See

Chemicals  are covered by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations or COSHH. There is guidance available from the HSE on how to comply with the COSHH which can be accessed by following this link.


See also Training

Competency can be described in various ways and usually refers to such things as skills, knowledge, experience and understanding of what is needed to ensure staff stay safe in a work role. Employees and volunteers need to be suitably trained. Some training is mandatory, such as induction training for staff new to an area of work and in specialised areas such as operating certain machinery such as forklifts and cranes.

Competency in the health and safety sense is not an absolute standard, but relates to a specific work role or task and the hazards and risks that go with it. People who have not achieved the necessary standard of competency should either be in training or supervised by someone who is sufficiently competent.

Competency also needs to be maintained and people can, over time, lose competency due to lack of use of the knowledge and skills required or when standards of safety change.

There are references to training in most health and safety guidance documents and employers should check the guidance relating to their industry or seek professional advice.


Health and safety is part of the civil and criminal legal system and is a part of efficient management of an organisation. So that organisations can demonstrate that they meet all necessary health and safety standards and requirements and so that health and safety is managed in an efficient and structured way, it is necessary to document certain aspects of health and safety.

In some cases records or essential documents are part of the legal requirements, this includes having a safety policy for organisations that employ 5 or more people, documenting risk assessments, recording certain types of incidents and keeping records of statutory inspections.

Whether records are kept for legal purposes or for business efficiency, decisions on retention periods should be made and the format and integrity of the records should be considered. Almost all records can now be held electronically, but for housekeeping purposes it is useful to have a dispose by date for records. This can range from a couple of years to records retained for 40 or 50 years.


Inspections are a way that health and safety performance can be monitored. Inspections cover a range of activities. Site walk-throughs, where individuals or groups of people look at the physical safety of a workplace often using a checklist of what to look for as an aide memoire, are the most common. Another is record or document inspections where essential documentation is inspected to see that it is comprehensive and up to date. Another form of inspection is behavioural checks where people’s safety behaviour is checked to ensure PPE is worn correctly or the most appropriate safe systems and methodologies are used.

On large or complex sites or organisations with peripatetic workers inspections are planned and organised on a programme to ensure all areas or work sites are covered.

It is essential that any problems or at risk situations are documented and either addressed at the time or as soon after as is appropriate.